These Are A Few Of My Favourite Films: 2018 Edition

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Okay, because many folks have asked… here are my favourite nine films from 2018.

Notice I said favourite and not best. I was recently interviewed for a newspaper piece where the reporter asked my favourite three movies. This felt like a refreshing change as I didn’t feel a need to spend time over-intellectualising my responses as I might have done if she’d asked what I thought were the best three films ever.

Before I launch into my list, it’s worth pointing out I still have some catching up to do, hence no possible entries for films such as Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, You Were Never Really Here or Bohemian Rhapsody.

So, with that caveat clear and without further ado, let’s head to my favourite nine (…nine, because, why not!?) films of the past twelve months…

9. Mission: Impossible – Fallout.

I have to admit the M:I films were mostly sort of washing over me, enjoyable in the moment but somewhat unmemorable bar their set-pieces. But then Fallout appeared, not only leaving me with a bill from my local cinema for having left fingernail holes in my seat, but also with a much greater enthusiasm for the previous entries. I’m gearing up for a run-through of the series at home in readiness for a second viewing of Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s remarkable piece of breathless skullduggery. Also, finishing off a series with two films featuring Sean Harris is always a bonus.

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8. The Rider.

Yeah, yeah, I know that it premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017, but those of us in the real world didn’t see it until its official release in 2018. Hopefully that doesn’t trigger anyone too badly.  Chloé Zhao’s contemporary western drama concerning rodeo riders feels like a top contender for the ‘film more people should see‘ award, 2018. Both painfully intimate and sweepingly widescreen, Zhao paints a portrait of a contained community with universal problems. You can read my full review here.

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7. Eighth Grade.

In many ways this shares some DNA with The Rider, taking me to a world I knew nothing about. This time, the unknown is the life of an adolescent girl in a time of social media, and this smart, sensitive, occasionally excruciating and ultimately uplifting film, from director Bo Burnham, features a hugely engaging central performance by newcomer, Elsie Fisher.

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6. A Quiet Place.

The first of two horror films in a strong year for the genre (see also Apostle, Mandy, Halloween, etc). Unfair on my behalf, but I was absolutely not expecting this from Jim Halpert from The Office. Directed and co-written (along with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) by John Krasinski, this post-apocalyptic monster movie hits all the right beats, gradually unveiling a world of silent terror using a personable family, headed up by Krasinski and the always-excellent Emily Blunt. Understated until it doesn’t have to be, this is great, old-school horror that could easily have worked as an old Twilight Zone episode.

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5. Ant-Man & The Wasp.

Tricky one, this. I didn’t want to fill my list with Marvel movies (seeing as we had three releases from them in 2018) and I really struggled between this and Black Panther, but in the end I had (slightly) more fun with Peyton Reed’s delightfully light-touched sequel, especially since I’m the type of Marvel Geek who believes this film will pay off more once we see Avengers: Endgame.

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4. Hereditary.

Ari Aster’s uneven but striking mix of family grief and the supernatural is a divisive film, very much a case of go-with-it-or-don’t. The first three-quarters of the movie is mostly all slow-burn intensity until the final twenty minutes or so go off into full-blown hysteria (which is where many viewers seem to check out). I went with it the whole way on my viewing, but will be curious to see how it holds up next time. Worth pointing out that regardless of any future reaction, I’ll still laud it for probably the most outrageous WTF moment in cinema this year.  Review here.

3. The Meg (just kidding).

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3. The Other Side of the Wind.

Freewheeling and meticulous, Orson Welles’ lost masterpiece (never a more fitting appellation) first started production in 1970 and was only completed after Welles’ death by a team headed up by Peter Bogdanovich and producer Frank Marshall. Released onto Netflix at the end of the year, Welles’ mesmerising film is both a celebration and a satire of Classic Hollywood and avant-garde filmmaking. Review here.

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2. Roma.

The only disappointing thing about multihyphenate Alfonso Cuarón’s almost tone poem telling of a tumultuous period in the life of his childhood home-help is that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see it on a cinema screen, seeing as it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve laid my eyes on in a long time (to avoid a lynching by my significant other, I mean cinematically, of course). Review here.

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1. Avengers: Infinity War.

Marvel Geek nirvana. The Russo brothers and co. pulled off a remarkable, if overpacked, feat in bringing to a head ten years of films across multiple franchises while still managing to create a cultural zeitgeist moment with a single finger click. Of course, we know most of the galaxy’s missing half will be restored (…don’t we!?), but the joy, as with many comic books of the source material, is in seeing how our heroes snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. And now we don’t have much longer to wait. Review here.

Dishonourable mention: Suspiria (don’t @ me).

See you all in 2019. Feel free to leave me your favourites from 2018 in the comments below.

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Captain Marvel Is Here

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Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly, the first official images of Captain Marvel have landed.

Brie Larson will star in Marvel’s first female-fronted franchise movie, Captain Marvel, as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (that’s a whole lotta Marvels, even before we discuss Jude Law).

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Set in the 1990s, making this a full-on prequel to everything we’ve seen before, the story will feature Larson going head to head with some fan favourite intergalatic bad guys from the comic books, the shape-shifting Skrulls. And here they are…

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The film also sees the return (or is it a preturn? Since this is technically speaking, his first appearance) of Lee Pace as Ronan The Accuser, last seen in a dance-off against the gang in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 1.

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Jude Law also features as Mar-Vell (in the comics, the first Captain Marvel, before Larson’s Carol Danvers inherits the title):

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Plus of course, the movie sees Samuel L Jackson as a pre-eyepatch wearing, two-eyed Nick Fury (last seen in the future, at the end of Avengers: Infinity War, dying along with half the universe just after sending out a call for help from Captain Marvel – oh, come on, that can’t be a spoiler by now).

Marvel Studios' CAPTAIN MARVEL Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)

Captain Marvel  is written and directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck,  with Meg LeFauve, Nicole Perlman, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Liz Flahive, and Carly Mensch also chipping in to the screenplay, and the film takes flight on March 8, 2019. Skrulls permitting.

Hereditary: New, Old-Fashioned Scares

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I’ve seen many reviews stating that Hereditary is a “new kind of horror”, and similar nonsense. In fact, there’s very little new about Ari Aster’s film, but that doesn’t mean that what he does with it won’t creep the living daylights out of you.

Rather, what Aster and co. do is not wholly rely on what have become the standard, tired tricks of a great deal of modern horror: the jump scare of something appearing in frame, or a door slamming, the sudden burst of sound and music. Instead, we are treated to long moments of dread and unease, surrounded by a film which takes its time exploring the emotions of its central characters and wrapping it all in the universal pain of grief – in particular, how we often don’t deal with it. Only once we’re pulled in by all this does Hereditary blow up with reanimated corpses and family members crawling across the ceiling.

And then, of course, it gives us that much talked about ending, which will really test whether or not the film has you in its hooks.

Hereditary begins quietly, pulling a little Stanley Kubrick Overlook maze trick from The Shining with a model house, but doesn’t do so frivolously: it’s a great unsettling moment, revealing one of the movie’s first pieces of disturbing symbolism, teasing us that there’s something not quite right about this family home. More of the film’s themes are immediately set out as we follow the family preparing for a funeral, for the mother of Toni Collette’s Annie.

Soon enough, both Annie and her two children, Peter and Charlie, are sensing things around the house and at school, and we see the family, rounded off by Gabriel Byrnes’ father, Steve, resolutely not coming to grips with not only this death but also events that have occurred in their lives previously.

Tension builds, and Aster, along with editors Jennifer Lame and Lucian Johnston and committed performances by the cast, allow their film all the time it needs to do so, as we are gradually introduced to wilder events beyond the confines of the house and the family, before one of the truly great shock moments of cinema leads us into a more heightened third act, letting the story fully off the leash in the last fifteen minutes or so. One or two of the final scares and revelations almost threaten to derail the careful build, but by the time they come we’ve been engulfed enough by the family’s deterioration not to stop us from enjoying their obvious pleasures.

It’s difficult to discuss the final five minutes without veering into spoiler territory, but suffice to say the various breadcrumbs laid throughout the previous two hours are brought together in a truly off-kilter way, with an ending which reminded me both of Rosemary’s Baby and of Robert Egger’s modern classic, The Witch, being both truly horrific (as you understand the fates of two of the central characters) and utterly bizarre.

Hereditary allows a few howlers through which occasionally threaten its entry to the hallowed halls of classics such as the aforementioned Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and The Haunting: clunky lines of dialogue here and there (“Dad, it’s the cemetery,” “About what?”), the discovery of a book (“Guide to Spiritualism”) which might as well be labelled “plot device”, and some irritatingly, The Deadly Bees level superimposed flies (yes, I’m being nit-picky, but these elements stand out like sore thumbs in an otherwise classy affair like this).

But despite these caveats, Hereditary works like a dark charm because it picks at a sore scab and works at it: grief is something most of us struggle with, and while we may not conjure up dead loved ones in an effort to deal with that grief – or at least, I presume we don’t – we are given time to empathise with the very real and raw emotions experienced by the film’s family, and the unravelling of that family as a result of their inability to deal with their pain. And that’s true horror, after all, even with the addition of a meddling witch’s coven.

To return to my original point, Hereditary might not actually offer us something new, but it does what it does to a mostly masterful level, where the simple sound of a vocal clicking is made scary, and follows the lead of John Carpenter’s Halloween by using the frame to create unease.

And if you’re unfortunate enough to have dealt with death and the ensuing emotions we’re left with, it will resonate long after a dozen pump-up-the-volume, jump scare Paranormal Nun horror movies have faded into one another.

So, Uh… About That Bond 25 Delay…

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Okay, at the risk of this site becoming the Official James Bond Herald & Tribune, hold on to your razor-trimmed throwing hats because so much has happened on Bond 25 since I last wrote about it some fifteen hours or so ago, it’ll make your head spin. And before you get your hopes up: no, Danny Boyle is still gone.

So that last report from THR suggesting that the next Bond film would miss its November 8, 2019 release spot? Well that might not be so on the mark, according to Deadline, who reported that the film would still be released on time, as long as a suitable director can be found in the next (checks Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M watch) sixty days. That seems like a pretty tight schedule for a new director to come in and hit the ground running, but the report went even further, suggesting that several names were in the frame to take on that challenge:

“I’ve heard an approach was made to Jean-Marc Vallee, who followed Dallas Buyers Club with the limited series Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects. I’ve heard his participation is unlikely due to scheduling. The other two helmers who were on a short list are Hell Or High Water‘s David Mackenzie and Yann Demange, the ’71 director who helmed White Boy Rick. If any of those filmmakers accepted, chances are Bond 25 would keep its date, I’m told.”

So, now we have the suggestion that Bond 25 will arrive in 2019, plus we have a bunch of intriguing names (who weren’t really on anyone’s radar for this gig just twenty-four hours ago). That should be enough Bond news for today, right?

Uh… what’s your hurry? Because now ten minutes or so have passed and Deadline have updated that director’s wish list with yet another name: Shaun of the Dead helmer, Edgar Wright, fresh from a Sony hit with Baby Driver (which I thought was slick but hollow, but then I’m not Barbara Broccoli, Michael G Wilson or Daniel Craig, obviously).

I’m not sure I can see Wright sticking around for this (in the same way I didn’t think Boyle would) but the production of this movie has turned into such a merry-go-round I wouldn’t be surprised if they announced Donald Trump had been approached to play the lead villain (typecasting, I know, I know…). Anyway, got all that? Swell.

Also, while this may be an interesting list of names, I’d like to see the Bond director’s Boy’s Club demolished: Kathryn Bigelow has been waiting in the wings long enough, Michelle MacLaren, Karyn Kasuma and Corinna McFarlane would all be great choices to shake up the franchise (although that might be a step too far for EON given the current turmoil).

It’s taken me twenty minutes or so to put this post together, so it’s possible everything I’ve just written is out of date. I’ll be sure to bring you more news on the soap opera that is Bond 25 as soon as it hits. Check back with me in an hour or so, huh…?

Bond To Miss 2019?

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News just in via The Hollywood Reporter that the mightily-troubled new Bond film will not hit its original 2019 release date. Specifically:

“With the abrupt exit of director Danny Boyle, the next installment in the James Bond film franchise — the untitled Bond 25 — will miss its Nov. 8, 2019 release date in North American theaters, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.”

This isn’t too surprsing, if true, given the sudden departure of director Danny Boyle from the franchise (as revealed here). Rumours are circulating that neither the producers nor star, Craig, were too thrilled about Boyle’s developing modern Cold War thriller, and a particular bone of contention seems to have been the casting of Tomasz Kot in a leading role. This will almost certainly mean that John Hodge’s script will be jettisoned and it seems unlikely that EON Productions would return to the already-completed script by regular Bond writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, which was dumped when Boyle came on board.

Going back to square one to find a new director and script also puts some doubt on the return of an already reluctant Daniel Craig, so this could also mean that Craig will finish his run with the less-than-perfect SPECTRE. And that’s something none of us want to see, right?

Whatever furious scrabbling is going down in the Bond offices right now (I’m picturing something akin to the From Russia With Love train fight), at least we know they won’t be rush-releasing a script into production – an act that’s never worked out too well for Bond films in the past. The down side is that it could cost us a suitable send-off for Craig.

James Bond Will Return… but when, and played by whom?

Second Suspiria Trailer Brings The Three Mothers… And The Shivers!

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Another day, another trailer for the new Suspiria. Turn on all the lights and feast on this:

There’s really not much to add about this latest slice on intensity since we talked about Suspiria just the other day (see here), but damn, Luca Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s classic of Italian gothic horror is looking more impressive with everything we hear about it and see from it. I couldn’t be any more sold on this baby.

Which means I’ve reached peak saturation point on PR for Suspiria, and this is definitely the final trailer I’ll be sharing. I want to go into this as cold as possible (especially considering my familiarity with the source material), but suffice to say I’m going to be first in line come November 2nd.

The Guardians Of The Galaxy Stand With Gunn (And So Do I)

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In a remarkable piece of chutzpah today, the entire cast of Marvel/Disney’s Guardians of the Galaxy films have released a joint statement in defence of director, James Gunn, recently fired from his position as a result of a concerted campaign by cybernazis.

Here’s the full letter, citing a petition to reinstate Gunn:

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It’s wonderful to see these actors backing their director, and while I don’t often bring politics onto this site, for once I’ll make an exception (because Gunn is someone whose work and public face I’ve personally admired for many years).

Gunn made a whole bunch of tweets that were undeniably in poor taste. But that’s all they were, jokes that some people find distasteful. Since making them he has very publicly apologised – twice, in fact – making a very heartfelt and eloquent case for his growth as a person who would no longer make those same jokes. In short, he owned the immaturity of his younger self. Would that we were all so self-aware.

When Disney hired Gunn to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy, they did so in full recognition of who they were bringing into the fold, in fact you might say they brought him in partly because of his far left-field humour.

The people who targeted Gunn’s past off-kilter humour did so because the director has become a highly vocal and highly visible critic of their right wing politics. They’re not stupid, they know Gunn wasn’t advocating the subjects he was making bad jokes about. They’ve targeted him in order to silence what he says now, not what he said a decade ago.

Disney and Marvel have made a very shitty move in firing Gunn under pressure from these cyber-bullies. It sets a terrible precedent that cannot be seen as anything than deeply troubling.

I don’t know if this show of support from Gunn’s cast will make a difference to one of the world’s biggest conglomerates, but if nothing else it shows that Gunn deserves support from more of us.

Black Panther – The Revolution Will Be Televised!

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You know how some days are – non-stop work, no time to think, you come home exhausted and… there’s a new trailer for Marvel’s Black Panther waiting for you. Result!

Feast your eyes on this and we’ll talk more after…

Well, that looks cool as heck, right!? Ryan Coogler’s take on the hidden nation of Wakanda is spectacular, and looks ready to open up a whole, new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And with that truly amazing cast Black Panther is shaping up to be another in the increasingly refreshing run of Marvel movies led by Scott Derrickson’s Doctor Strange, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 and Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.

As a bonus you can ogle the lovely new poster, below.

Black Panther opens on February 16th and that date can’t arrive quickly enough.

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Godzilla R.I.P. – Sayonara, Haruo Nakajima

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Haruo Nakajima (中島 春雄 Nakajima Haruo) the Japanese suitmation actor best known for portraying Godzilla from the original movie in 1954 through twelve consecuctive films until Godzilla vs Gigan in 1972, has passed away at the age of 88.

Alongside his physically demanding role as the King of the Monsters, he performed suitmation roles as monsters in an unprecedented number of kaiju eiga including Rodan (1956), Mogera in The Mysterians (1957), Varan the Unbelievable (1958), Mothra (1960), Matango (1963), Baragon in Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Gaira in War of the Gargantuas (1966) and even the Eighth Wonder of the World himself, King Kong in King Kong Escapes (1967). He would also work with Godzilla special effects genius Eiji Tsuburaya in a number of the popular Ultraman TV series.

Nakajima’s impressive career began at the age of 33 in Sword for Hire (1952), before taking on roles in The Woman Who Touched the Legs (1952), Eagle of the Pacific (1953) and Farewell Rabaul (1954) – both for original Godzilla director Ishirō Honda, which led directly to his casting as the beloved monster – and then Seven Samurai for Akira Kurosawa in 1954.

After his retirement from film and television work in 1973, Nakajima would become a popular and much loved figure at many Godzilla conventions around the world.

In the short film The Man Who Was Godzilla, Nakajima said: “In the end the Godzilla I played remains on film forever. It remains in people’s memory, and for that I feel really grateful.”

Rest in peace, Godzilla.